Tonight [December 15] was the march and vigil for Private Danny Chen, who was killed in the army on October 3, 2011. We don’t know how he died. The army is withholding all evidence, which it owes to the family, that could answer this question. What we do know is that he did not die in combat. We know he was constantly harassed and discriminated against by his fellow soldiers for being Chinese. We know some really twisted, violent hazing was committed against him by his superiors, right before he was found dead. We decided to hold a march and vigil because the army is currently carrying out an investigation, and we have to show them that the public is watching and that they cannot get away with another cover-up.
Just yesterday, board members of OCA-NY along with Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez and Council Member Margaret Chin went to the Pentagon to meet with high-ranking army officials, where they made demands that may fundamentally transform the way that hazing and bias crimes are dealt with in the military. We need them to know that the public and the media are watching, and that if they do not meet our demands, we will redirect our campaign to focus on our young men and women who are thinking of enlisting. These young people need to know before they enlist, the Army will not protect them from harm by fellow soldiers.
Before the vigil, we reached out to many organizations to support, and 36 signed onto our cause. We also reached out to Occupy Wall Street because justice and government transparency are in its mission, and we thought we could use the numbers and networks in OWS to bring out more support for our vigil, and we also wanted to show our solidarity with OWS.
So imagine my surprise when protesters from OWS showed up with OWS signs, not to stand with others lining up for the march to Columbus Park in support, but to stand in front of everyone, trying to direct them. These people, who had not, until that very moment, put in one bit of effort into organizing this action, who had no idea what the plan was, who had no idea who we were or who the family was, decided that they were going to make this an OWS event.
Conflict erupted when one of the OWS-affiliated protesters came with a giant Communist Party of China flag. This white man decided that he was entitled to represent us, at this protest for an American soldier, with a flag that has been used by this country to vilify the Chinese American community. When people began asking him not to demonstrate that flag because it was not the purpose of the event and we were in no way representing China or political parties, he began screaming at us about how we were ANTI-COMMUNIST and trying to take away his first amendment rights. We told him that Danny Chen was an American soldier and we wanted to respect the family and their wishes, but he continued screaming violent accusations at us at the top of his lungs and disrupting the event, until one of Danny Chen’s family members, on the verge of tears, finally convinced him to leave.
Then I overheard another OWS protester, who had earlier been trying to direct the protesters, give a video interview, and heard him saying, ever so solemnly, “They don’t want me here.” My question is: who are we and who are you? How do you expect to be welcomed as one of “us” when you have, from the beginning, made every effort to set yourself apart? Why do you think that you as an individual should be primary in this march for Private Danny Chen and his family? Why are you here giving video interviews?
Another white OWS protester began trying to use the human mic to direct the protest, and told me that I shouldn’t be using the blowhorn because the cops were going to take it away. I told her that, no, we had a parade permit and sound permit, which was why the police were there clearing the streets for our march. She looked confused and stopped yelling.
OWS protesters often make it seem like they are the birth of social justice activism, that they are here to teach us how to protest because none of us know what the fuck we are doing and need their wealth of experience to help us out. I was not at all surprised when that woman so naturally assumed that she, as a white woman, knew better than me – she thought that I had found a blowhorn somewhere and decided to play around with it. It didn’t occur to her that we had been planning this for weeks and thinking critically about every step, that it was led by a civil rights organization that has been at work for decades, that we had applied for 4 different kinds of permits so that our event could safely and effectively achieve its purpose.
The actions of these OWS protesters showed that they were at the march and vigil, not to show their support for Danny Chen’s family or the ongoing work on their case, but to provoke and garner attention for themselves and their brand, and then try to turn our strategic work and planning into a nonsensical, self-righteous tantrum. They acted like tourists on vacation in the social justice world, and our efforts and long-term goals were expendable in light of their self-interested pursuit of an interesting experience.
so don’t break our windows when shit goes down, cool?
If you have 8 minutes, watch this.
If you don’t have 8 minutes, wait until you do.
oh my god THIS IS BEAUTIFUL. he’s maybe a little angry. And this is exactly what I mean about the Seattle protests, and about -all- the protests. MAYOR BLOOMBERG: MASCOT OF OCCUPY WALL STREET.
If I could show this to my dad, I wonder what he’d say. I only hope to some ears these words ring true.
LOL@ “THAT GOD DAMN BATMAN MOVIE!”
GET IT, Keith. No one ever talks about how Bloomberg, mayor of Wall Street, made all of his money on Wall Street. He serves that small section of New York and that small section only.
Ha, I watched it live but totally missed the “God Damn Batman” reference. I’m a bad geek.